There are plenty of reasons why you might want to avoid the sleeveless look, even when the sun is shining; not least is the desire to prevent sunburn (somehow shoulders always seem to go red first, regardless of how much suncream we slather on).
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Perhaps your arms are looking slightly less slim and toned than you’d like, or maybe you suffer from keratosis pilaris (bumpy skin on the tops of arms) in which case you might appreciate the confidence boost you’ll get from wearing these practical alternatives to baring it all…
Whether you’re shopping for a dress for a special occasion or just looking for a way to keep cool and covered, there are plenty of attractive options that don’t involve showing your arms off.
Your first decision is whether you want your additional sleeves to go under or over your outfit.
Each has pros and cons...
Pros and cons of sleeves over the outfit
Over the outfit means you might have to endure demands from a well-meaning friend to dispose of your extra layer in the heat, whereas if that layer disappears under the outfit, it can look like an integral part of your ensemble.
Pros and cons of sleeves under the outfit
However, if you opt for under, it can add extra bulk or wrinkles, destroying the clean lines your dress might have been designed to provide, plus if the weather gets unbearably hot, you can’t subtly shrug the extra material off your shoulders.
But at with this guide least you’ll be armed (sorry) with the options you need to find the summer outfits that suit your needs.
Under outfit sleeve solution 1: Bodysuit
Shaped like a swimming costume but with poppers to make calls of nature a doddle, the bodysuit has been enjoying a comeback of late, with options ranging from muted colours to wild patterns and pretty florals.
If you’ve ever found yourself having to nip to a quiet corner in order to tug and smooth your under layer out so it lays flat beneath your dress, you’ll love the way a bodysuit stays pulled taut over your torso.
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Under outfit sleeve solution 2: Shirt or blouse
If you have a shirt that you would usually need to wear with a camisole or vest top underneath in order to protect your dignity, you might be able to double its usage by wearing it underneath your dress.
If it’s made from a very sheer material, it won’t make you overheat, but it will keep your arms covered.
Of course, this trick won’t work with every type of dress, as the overall look will depend on the neckline, but it’s a safe bet to assume you’d be able to pair a sheer blouse with a round or v-neck, halter or boat neck dress without a problem.
Under outfit sleeve solution 3: Wingz
Wingz are a sleeved undergarment that can be worn with any neckline, and were designed and developed by Michelle Ellis. Ellis wanted to find a solution to sleeveless dresses that didn’t spoil the overall look of the dress or cause too much over-heating in the wearer.
She says “Wingz are generally all year round; in winter they are more about style (complementing a dress with lace sleeves, for example) but when designing the summer range, my focus was on providing arm coverage without the extra heat and discomfort that a conventional shrug or cardigan brings.”
They range from size 6 all the way through to 28. If you’re a size 6-10, you’d need a 0; 12.16, a 1; 18-22 a 2; and 24-28 a 3 – so if you lose or gain weight, you should still comfortably be able to wear your existing pair.
Over outfit sleeve solution 1: Kimono
Light and breezy, kimonos burst on to the summer fashion scene a couple of years ago, and their casual charm has ensured their place as a warm weather staple.
A thin cross between a jacket and a cardi and made of floating material, usually weighed down with a thick hem or tassles, they can dress up a daytime dress into wedding-appropriate wear, or be worn thrown over a vest top and jeans to effortlessly pretty-up an outfit.
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Over outfit sleeve solution 2: Lace cardi
A lace cardigan looks best over a relatively plain outfit; an otherwise charming pattern seen peeking out from underneath can look a little chaotic and messy, plus there are some very attractive, intricately designed lace materials you can choose from which are worth showcasing against a one colour background.
If your top or dress has a low back, a lace cardi will allow you to reveal a bit of skin whilst still looking entirely appropriate.
Over outfit sleeve solution 3: Shrug
A shrug is basically a short cardi designed to cover the upper part of your back and shoulders, a little like a bolero jacket.
Some are short sleeved, some are long, but they usually hug the body without closing at the front, so again, if you lose or gain weight regularly, these are a good option as they don’t need to do up at the front, giving you a little extra grace.
And, as the name might suggest, if you do get a bit too warm, you can literally just shrug them off!
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